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Family of Antwon Rose files federal lawsuit over teen's fatal shooting

Tony LaRussa
| Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018, 6:15 a.m.
Antwon Rose II
Antwon Rose II

A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed in federal court by the family of Antwon Rose II, the unarmed 17-year-old who was fatally shot by an East Pittsburgh police officer.

The lawsuit alleges that the borough council, Mayor Louis Payne and police Chief Lori Fruncek failed to properly train its police officers, which resulted in Rose’s death.

Officer Michael Rosfeld, 30, was charged with homicide for allegedly shooting Rose as he ran from a felony traffic stop on June 19. Rosfeld is accused of shooting Rose three times — in the elbow, face and back. Rosfeld is free on $250,000 unsecured bond.

The lawsuit alleges that Rosfeld failed to wait for backup units to arrive after pulling the car over and that he “immediately drew his weapon and began to shout menacing and hostile orders at the occupants of the vehicle, including Rose.”

Rosfeld’s “tone and demeanor…was so aggressive that it caused the occupants of the vehicle to fear for their lives,” the lawsuit alleges.

Rosfeld stopped the car minutes after a drive-by shooting was reported in North Braddock and ordered the three occupants out of the vehicle. The vehicle matched the description of the car used in the drive-by and had its rear window shot out. The 22-year-old target of the drive-by shooting returned fire after suffering a graze would to the abdomen. Investigators found two guns in his car. One of them, a .40-caliber Glock 22 pistol that matched the shell casings found near the scene of the drive-by.

The lawsuit contends that Rose got out of the passenger seat and showed his empty hands to Rosfeld, who had his gun pointed at the teen.

As he ordered the driver to the ground, Rose and a teen sitting in the backseat — Zaijuan Hester — ran from the scene.

The lawsuit alleges that Rosfeld used “excessive and deadly force” when he opened fire on Rose: “Without issuing a verbal warning or attempting any pursuit whatsoever.”

Rose also did not threaten Rosfeld or “make any threatening gestures that would have given the appearance that he had a weapon,” according to the lawsuit.

Rosefeld initially told investigators that Rose turned his hand toward him and that he saw “something dark that he perceived as a gun,” according to the criminal complaint filed when the officer was charged.

When detectives asked Rosfeld to go over the sequence of events in the incident, he told them that he did not see a gun, according to the complaint.

Rose was unarmed but had an empty handgun magazine in his pocket that matched one of the guns found in the car. Hester, 17, got away and was arrested nearly a week later.

Hester has been charged with attempted homicide and aggravated assault for the drive-by that prompted the traffic stop.

The driver of the jitney that picked up Rose and Hester before the drive-by was not charged with any crimes.

The lawsuit, which requests a jury trial, maintains the borough had no process in place to properly vet Rosfeld before hiring him and should have known about previous incidents with which he had been involved.

Two men Rosfeld allege in a lawsuit that Rosfeld fabricated evidence when he arrested them outside a Pittsburgh bar in December. At the time, Rosfeld was working as a University of Pittsburgh police officer.

Charges of simple assault, trespassing and disorderly conduct were dropped weeks later at a preliminary hearing.

Tony LaRussa is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tony at 724-772-6368 or or via Twitter @TonyLaRussaTrib.

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